Program Counter - Hardware Implementation

Hardware Implementation

In a typical central processing unit (CPU), PC is a binary counter (which is the origin of the term program counter) that may be one of many registers in the CPU hardware. The instruction cycle begins with a fetch, in which the CPU places the value of PC on the address bus to send it to the memory. The memory responds by sending the contents of that memory location on the data bus. (This is the stored-program computer model, in which executable instructions are stored alongside ordinary data in memory, and handled identically by it). Following the fetch, the CPU proceeds to execution, taking some action based on the memory contents that it obtained. At some point in this cycle, PC will be modified so that the next instruction executed is a different one (typically, incremented so that the next instruction is the one at the next sequential memory address).

Like other processor registers, PC may be a bank of binary latches, each one representing one bit of the value of PC. The number of bits (the width of PC) relates to the processor architecture. For instance, a “32-bit” CPU may use 32 bits to be able to address 232 units of memory. If PC is a binary counter, it may increment when a pulse is applied to its COUNT UP input, or the CPU may compute some other value and load it into PC by a pulse to its LOAD input.

To identify the current instruction, PC may be combined with other registers that identify a segment or page. This approach permits a PC with fewer bits by assuming that most memory units of interest are within the current vicinity.

Read more about this topic:  Program Counter

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